10 Times Meghan Markle Supposedly Broke Royal Fashion Rules But Actually Didn't

10 Times Meghan Markle Supposedly Broke Royal Fashion Rules But Actually Didn't
Image: Rick Davis/SplashNews

Meghan Markle
Rick Davis/SplashNews

There's no denying that Meghan Markle made a huge impact on royal style during her time in Britain. Her looks were fresh, modern, and sophisticated -- and they pulled royal family fashion forward in just a little over two years. They gave us a glimpse of how a modern monarchy could move with the times and become more relatable and varied, and they even helped push other royal women in a new direction. (One example is how many more pants Kate Middleton has worn on duty since 2018.)

Given all that, it's no surprise that Meghan was repeatedly called a rule-breaker, accused of breaking "royal protocol" and going against an unwritten royal fashion rule book by critics in headline after headline. But in truth, Meghan has rarely broken a rule ... just people's idea of what royal style is or should be. More often than not, Meghan was simply wearing something other royal women had worn before, with the only difference being that she was doing it while being biracial, American, and a former actress -- things that some people never seemed to be able to get over.

Is there royal tradition when it comes to fashion? Sure. Generally, it's conservative, but it's also constantly changing to adapt with the times -- even if the changes are slow. We're sure Queen Victoria would be horrified if she were to rise from the dead and see Queen Elizabeth showing her ankles.

Over the years, we've heard from unnamed sources, royal biographers, and experts about what the Queen likes or doesn't like, and what she expects when it comes to how royal women dress. No one from the staff has ever said anything on the record, and the rules are not written down anywhere. Also, the lists of rules vary widely from report to report -- so, who knows? What we can assume is that the Queen simply expects royal women to dress well for an occasion.

Meghan Markle did that, and yet, she was called out for "breaking royal fashion protocol" more often than not -- and for things that everyone from the Queen to Kate Middleton has done. It turns out that people don't like a breath of fresh air as much as they say they do and weirdly expect royals to act within a rigid set of rules. Maybe, just maybe, the public is more rigid than the Queen. 

Here are 10 times Meghan was accused of breaking royal style rules but, as it turned out, really wasn't.

  • Dark Nails

    meghan markle
    Jeff Spicer/BFC/Getty Images

    To present her wedding dress designer with a trophy at the British Fashion Awards, a pregnant Meghan chose a sleek, black one-shoulder dress and a dark nails. Critics gasped when they saw that Meghan had kicked the Queen's favorite Essie Ballet Slippers shade to the curb in favor of a chic color somewhere between eggplant and straight-up black. But she didn't actually break any rules, said experts, despite Queen Elizabeth's reported preference that royal women keep to light colors.

    "There's no actual protocol about dark nail polish," royal correspondent Omid Scobie told Harper's Bazaar. "It's simply about being appropriate -- we'd never see this at a royal engagement. But tonight's event is a celebration of fashion and there's a lot more flexibility on what one can wear."  

    It was a stunning look. 

  • Kate Went Dark, Too

    kate middleton and prince william
    Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

    Meghan isn't the only royal who has painted her nails dark. Kate has always either worn nude polish -- or none at all on her hands -- since back in her single days. It simply seems like a personal choice, but all bets are off when she's wanted to glam up a red carpet look with dark toes. She's done it several times as a royal, including to a dinner at the Thirty Club in 2012. 

    Why not? It's a great look on both Meghan and Kate.  

  • Wedge Shoes

    Jeff Spicer/BFC/Getty Images

    Supposedly, the Queen hates wedge heels. (If that's true, um, why? They're comfy and so cute.) According to a source, Queen Elizabeth thinks they look clumsy. Nevertheless, Meghan laced up a pair of black and tan ones for an event in Fiji during her and Prince Harry's tour in Australia, and other locales in 2018 -- and it was perfect for her boho-inspired tiered maxi dress. What would be the point of wearing pumps for an informal event in a tropical location?

  • Meet the Wedge Queen

    queen elizabeth, kate middleton, prince william
    Geoff Pugh - WPA Pool/Getty Images

    Royal experts repeatedly told us that we would never see any royal ladies wearing wedges around the Queen, because she hates the sight of them. But lo and behold, in 2019, Kate -- who loves wedges and wears them often -- paired a camel-colored pair with a lovely floral maxi dress when touring the Chelsea Flower Show in 2019. And who is right next to her? Her Majesty herself. So, unless the Queen is telling off Kate for having the cheek to wear wedges, this is another mythological royal rule.

  • Black Outfits 

    meghan markle
    Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images

    Meghan loves black, because black is super chic, and there's nothing else like it to look sophisticated and well-dressed. So, throughout her life as a working royal, it was one of her go-to colors. Critics were particularly loud whenever she stepped out in black, as they were when she wore this outfit to an Association of Commonwealth Universities event. "Black Mark," read The Sun's racial dog-whistle of a headline. 

  • Kate Turns Out the Lights

    kate middleton
    Paul Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images

    It's true that the Queen only ever wears black for funerals and serious war remembrance events -- though there is a gorgeous portrait of her as a young queen wearing a dramatic strapless black ball gown. But that doesn't mean that she forces everyone else to follow her lead. Kate has worn an astounding amount of black during her time as a royal, including a head-to-toe black look to a children's hospital in 2012 pictured above. (Google it.) The only reason people have not noticed is because no one has ever called Kate Middleton out on it the way folks call out Meghan. 

  • Off-the-Shoulder Dress

    meghan markle and kate middleton and camilla parker bowles
    Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

    Another beautiful outfit, another round of faux outrage aimed at Meghan -- complete with claims that she was an "attention rhymes-with-store." She wore an off-the-shoulder custom Carolina Herrera dress to the Trooping the Colour celebration soon after her wedding in 2018. Though royal women tend to wear more conservative looks to the celebration over the years, Meghan's outfit is hardly scandalous with wide wrap sleeves, and her hair covering most of her shoulders.

  • Kate's Own Bare Shoulders

    Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

    Would anyone call Kate's gorgeous, curve-hugging, off-the-shoulder dress inappropriate? We hope not -- and there were no headlines bashing the duchess. It's a great look, and like Meghan, Kate pulled her hair forward to cover part of her shoulders. Kate wore the H&M dress to a dinner in honor of addiction awareness week in 2019. She also wore an off-the-shoulder dress to a war remembrance festival, of all things -- an event that the Queen attended. 

    So if there's a royal rule against the look, Kate Middleton didn't get the memo.

  • Wearing Pants

    meghan markle
    Chris Jackson/Getty Images

    When Meghan stepped out wearing something that royal ladies didn't often wear, headlines flat-out questioned whether it was OK for her to do that -- as if she needed to be monitored and was doing something completely out of left field, instead of, ya know, simply wearing some clothes. Rocking pants and pant suits to award shows and other events may not have been an everyday look for royal women, but they were not outside the rules.   

  • Pants, Pants, Pants, Pantsy-Pants Pants

    Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, and Kate Middleton
    David Cairns/Express/Getty Images; Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images; Chris Jackson/Getty Images

    (*Bullhorn emoji*) Every single royal woman has worn pants at some point -- and not just to private events. It seems silly to have to point that out in 2020, but here we are. The Queen herself rocked them in her younger years -- as in the above photo, taken during an official tour of Canada in 1970 -- and she still does, though not on duty. Princess Diana loved wearing tuxedo suits to official evening events, and Kate has worn everything -- from jeggings to trousers to culottes to capris -- to all types of official events.

  • Short Skirt

    prince harry and meghan markle
    Dan Charity - WPA Pool/Getty Images

    Ah, the tuxedo dress. Meghan wore it to a Hamilton performance, and it set off all kinds of criticism because of the thigh-skimming length and the bare legs. (We'll get to that later on in this piece.) Here's the thing: The Queen might not like short skirts, but royal fashion etiquette didn't even apply here, because this was not a royal event; it was a performance to benefit Prince Harry's own nonprofit, Sentebale. 

    Suck it, critics.

  • Kate's Short Skirts

    kate middleton and queen elizabeth II
    Indigo/Getty Images

    Here's a fact for Meghan critics to ponder: Meghan Markle has never actually worn short skirts on duty.  Early on in her life as a royal, Kate routinely wore skirts above the knee -- sometimes, way above -- including to her first outing with the Queen (above). According to reports, Queen Elizabeth asked her to tone it down, and indeed, Kate has become more conservative in terms of skirt length as the years have passed -- and it only makes sense, since she's the future queen. But Kate still wears the occasional mini skirt tweed suit, though, with black tights.  

  • Bare Legs

    prince harry and meghan markle
    Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

    While no one knows for sure whether the monarch's rumored edict that royal ladies wear pantyhose is true, Kate wears very sheer -- nearly invisible -- pantyhose 99% of the time, so it's probably a safe bet that the queen strongly prefers the look. This could mean that pantyhose is one queenly preference that Meghan definitely did not abide by 100% of the time when she was a senior working royal. She had bare legs in her engagement photo call, and went back and forth between bare and hose the rest of the time -- though that could have been because she reportedly struggled to find the right pantyhose for her skin tone. (Lots of us have been there. The nylon ashiness is real!)

  • Kate's Bare Legs

    kate middleton
    Chris Jackson - WPA Pool / Getty Images

    Even future queen Kate skips pantyhose sometimes -- like when she's wearing a maxi dress, or when she stepped onto a judo mat at an Olympics event in 2012 (she was clearly bare-legged). It just goes to show that the only rule that royal women have to abide by is dressing appropriately for the occasion.

    ... because no one is going to wear pantyhose to be part of a judo demonstration.

  • Bare Feet

    meghan markle and prince harry
    Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

    What do most of us do as soon as we hit the beach? Take off our shoes, of course. (Who wants sand in their shoes?) But according to critics, when Harry and Meghan both chucked their shoes at Australia's Bondi Beach in 2018, they broke a royal rule against letting their toes fly free. No such rule has ever been made public, and taking off shoes to join a circle of people sitting on the sand -- which is what Harry and Meghan were doing -- just seems like a no-brainer that not even the Queen could object to.

  • Royally Bare Feet

    kate middleton
    Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

    The Queen herself has taken off her shoes plenty of times. There are pictures of her walking barefoot into mosques, and before entering a home in South Korea while on a tour years ago. Last year, Kate followed suit when she visited a mosque in Pakistan -- but with the addition of dark nail polish! Camilla Parker Bowles, Prince Charles' wife, took off her shoes when the couple took a walk on the beach after an event (He hilariously was wearing a double-breasted suit and dress shoes.). Of course, what they all had in common was that their bare feet were semi-shielded under pantyhose. 

    However, when Kate went barefoot for that judo center visit, it was the real deal, and the Daily Mail took the opportunity to pen a needlessly brutal piece pointing out her low arches, bunions, and un-pedicured nails. 

    So maybe, it is better for royals to keep their shoes on.  

  • Skipping Head Covers

    meghan markle and queen elizabeth
    Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

    Shortly after Meghan's wedding, the Queen took her along on their one and only joint outing together. While the monarch sported one of her colorful hats -- to match her equally eye-catching coat -- Meghan kept it natural by skipping any kind of head covering. Of course, critics thought it was highly disrespectful to do so, and rumors flew about the queen being displeased ... despite the fact that the two ladies looked like they were having the time of their lives. 

  • Kate & Camilla's Bare Heads

    kate middleton, duchess camilla, queen elizabeth
    Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images

    Well, looky here. If it isn't two duchesses -- the next two queen consorts, in fact -- hanging around the present queen without hats on ... and the queen is smiling like she couldn't give a flying fig about their bare heads. Though the monarch may choose to keep the tradition of wearing hats during daytime outings, it hardly seems like Queen Elizabeth expects that of other royal women, especially since the occasion in this picture is a visit to a friggin' gourmet food store

  • Crossbody Bag

    meghan markle
    Chris Jackson/Getty Images

    One of the more head-scratching protocols claims that there is a royal rule against wearing a crossbody bag, or a purse with a strap. The reason, they say? Try to follow this logic: Non-royals are not supposed to initiate a handshake with a royal, and because a crossbody bag leaves the royal's hands free, that signals to the peasant (oops, regular person) that it's OK to dare to put a hand out. The claim further asserts that this is why Kate often carries a clutch with both hands. 


    If this isn't the definition of a reach, we don't know what is. Nevertheless, headlines and Meghan detractors ran with it when she wore the purse style during a trip to Scotland.

  • Getting Handsy

    kate middleton
    Arthur Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images

    This is another one of those things that seems absurd to have to point out, but here it goes: We're pretty sure Kate doesn't hold a clutch to avoid handshakes. The reason we're sure of this is because she often doesn't wear a purse at all, and neither do any of the royal men. We are sure they're not particularly worried about unwanted handshake offers, because we've seen Kate, William, and Harry ALL willingly and enthusiastically make a beeline to greet crowds gathered at their events. 

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